"Accidental Librarian", a new term or a reality?

Reading Dr. Enrique T. Cayaban position paper reminded me to revisit a draft post/article about teacher-librarian. Allow me to tell you a story. One participant during the organizational meeting and forum of the Rizal Librarians Association (RLA) used the term “accidental librarian” to describe his foray to the profession of librarianship. He is a BS elementary education graduate and passed the teacher licensure exams. Initially assigned by her principal to manage the school library day to day operation on top of his teaching load was not an easy task. He was selected simply because he was once a student assistant working in the library during his college days. He could not loudly complain without first trying it out thus jeopardizing his employment status comes renewal of his teaching appointment. He reluctantly accepted the added task thinking it is only temporary. Hoping that after a year or so he can request his superior to give this load to qualified members of the faculty. In short, he busied himself organizing the library and rise to the challenge of running the day-to-day school library operations. He improvise, innovate and along the way learn to love what he is doing that after a year he requested to unload some of his teaching assignment in favor of his library duties. Now, he is 10 years away from retirement and he dream of retiring someday as a librarian.

Other participants or teacher-librarian present during that forum shared a similar insight when it was their turn to introduce themselves. They too used the term “accidental librarian” when they shared their own stories. Another teacher-librarian recalled that she was not initially assigned in the library. She comes to the library daily because the only available office table/space is near the library. Occasionally, she helped her teacher-librarian colleague in running the affairs of the school library. Later on, students and other members of the teaching faculty started calling her librarian. Tired of correcting them, she ended accepting the additional position when it was offered to her by her superior. She too learned to love librarianship and became proud to be addressed as librarian.

The other teacher-librarian stories are heartwarming. Hearing them for the first time further energized us, PLAI-STRLC Council Officers to organized the other provincial chapters within Region. Their stories and other library experiences shared validated the importance of organizing a provincial chapter to address their local concerns/issues.

Rizal Province is adjacent to Metro Manila and some of its original territories are now part of the Greater Metro Manila area and part of PLAI-NCRLC. From that simple introduction and sharing of experiences, we gathered the following: a) there is a shortage of qualified librarian in the country b) that employment of not qualified librarian is not only true in rural schools but also in urban or city schools c) although private school/institution can afford to pay for a librarian item, the shortage of qualified (or license) librarians force school administrators to assigned it to non-qualified staff or teacher-librarian d) No distance education program for MLIS is currently being offered in the country which could be a good alternative to increase the number of registered librarians.

The passage of RA 6966 and later amended by RA 9246 clearly defines who can be librarian and practice the profession in the Philippines. Almost 18 years has passed since the passage of RA 6966 but the “problem” with teacher-librarian has not be adequately addressed. Dr. Cayaban position paper therefore is a timely calls to PRC-BFL attention to make the necessary intervention to address this issue.

The current Council Officers of PLAI-STRLC are well aware of this issue that during one of the monthly regular meetings, some officers brainstorm the possibility of offering a distance education program in LIS so that these “teacher-librarian” could have the necessary educational qualifications (as mandated by RA 9246) or earned units in LIS and be eligible take the Librarian Licensure Examination (LLE) (RBManlangit).
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